Continuing his first official visit to Africa, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Nigeria on Thursday and met with President Muhammadu Buhari, who acknowledged America’s assistance in the fight against terrorists.
President Buhari, who received Blinken at the presidential villa, expressed appreciation to the US for allowing Nigeria to procure military hardware to fight terrorism as well as training the Nigerian military.
“It’s helping us to stabilise the situation in the Northeast and we’ve made a lot of progress since 2015. We are doing a lot on security, and the people involved appreciate the efforts,” President Buhari said.
Police brutality, climate change
In his reaction to a report on the 2020 anti-police riot dubbed EndSars, Buhari said it is “democracy in action”, and stressed that America equally has its own police brutality problem and hoped that necessary reforms would be made.
He also reported that Nigeria and her neighbours have suffered the impact of climate change for a while, with Lake Chad shrinking drastically from its original size and affecting the livelihoods of about 30 million people in surrounding countries.
“That is why the youths defy the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean to attempt emigrating to Europe. Inter-basin water transfer is needed to keep the youths at home, and they can resume their lives of farming, fishing and animal husbandry,” he said.
On the recent removal of Nigeria from the watch list of countries violating religious freedom, which Blinken said this was “based on facts”.
President Buhari expressed the country’s appreciation, noting that there was freedom of worship in Nigeria, and no one is discriminated against on the basis of his or her faith.
He said education is a priority “because when you educate a people, there are certain levels they will not fall below”.
Blinken said America and Nigeria have diverse challenges, but a common denominator is security, and hoped for better partnerships “so that the bad guys won’t get the good guys”.
Blinken said he would meet Nigeria’s vice-president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo and foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama to discuss furthering cooperation on global health security, expanding energy access and economic growth, and revitalising democracy.
Blinken will also deliver a speech on US-Africa policy in the capital of Africa’s largest democracy.
He will also engage Nigerian entrepreneurs in the digital sector and meet civil society figures.
Nigeria is the US’s second-largest trading partner in Africa, with two-way trade between two totalling over $10 billion in 2019. The US is one of the largest foreign investors in Nigeria, with foreign direct investment totalling $5.5 billion in 2019.
There are more than 500,000 Nigerian-born American citizens and lawful permanent residents in the United States.
With more than 100,000 travellers to the US each year, Nigerians boost American businesses, colleges, and universities.
Nigeria sends more students to US colleges and universities than any other country in Africa and is the 11th largest source country worldwide of international students.